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Bougie SF coffee chain bids founders farewell as Starbucks vet takes over

Two men (Justin and Jerad Morrison, the founders of Sightglass Coffee) lean over cups of coffee.
The Morrison brothers, Justin, left, and Jerad, have left Sightglass Coffee, the San Francisco roaster they founded nearly 15 years ago. | Source: Melina Mara/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Change is brewing at iconic San Francisco coffee roaster Sightglass: Fifteen years after they founded the company as a coffee cart in SoMa, brothers Justin and Jerad Morrison have departed, handing over the reins to a new chief executive who previously worked at Starbucks.

With this transition, Sightglass becomes the latest local third-wave coffee business to relinquish its original leadership after raising millions in venture capital funding, following in the footsteps of Blue Bottle and Philz. 

The company signaled the shift with a little-noticed LinkedIn post in April. The post, which was first reported by Sprudge, said the Morrison brothers have “stepped down from the business to pursue other endeavors,” while retail veteran Sharon Healy has taken the helm as CEO to “lead Sightglass into its next phase of growth.”

Healy, who worked at Starbucks for nearly a decade and was most recently a vice president at organic food company Urban Remedy, started at Sightglass in January, per the announcement. Former Sightglass CEO Patricia King died in late 2023. Neither of the Morrisons responded to the Standard’s request for comment, nor did a Sightglass representative. 

Launched in 2009 with a “rickety service cart” in SoMa, Sightglass aimed to “elevate what coffee is,”  with a roasting style where “the caffeine stays more present,” according to a 2011 interview Jerad Morrison gave to the Chronicle. It has since expanded to three locations in San Francisco, as well as a full restaurant in Los Angeles that serves sandwiches and salads alongside its pour-overs and macchiatos. 

Several years after its launch, the company raised funding from Twitter and Square co-founder Jack Dorsey, as well as multiple rounds from VC firm GingerBread Capital. (GingerBread did not respond to The Standard’s request for comment.)

Its cash infusions put it among the ranks of other local caffeine peddlers to raise substantial funding over the last decade. Philz, Blue Bottle, and robotic coffee bar CafeX have all reeled in millions from VC firms. Outside the Bay Area, Blank Street Coffee in Brooklyn has raised a stunning $100 million, including from tech-centric VC funds General Catalyst and Tiger Global. 

The funding frenzy has allowed these firms to pull espresso shots throughout the U.S., but the VC world’s ethos of growth can also cause friction. Bulletproof and Sudden Coffee, which both raised funding from Silicon Valley investors, have since faced a lawsuit and shut down, respectively. 

Meanwhile, expanded distribution has given rise to charges of diluted quality from coffee snobs. Since Nestle essentially acquired Blue Bottle in 2017, people on Reddit have complained about declining coffee quality, increasing prices and the sins of the company’s corporate behemoth owner. Philz, too, has been accused of selling out and losing its original charm.

Healy’s long experience working for the most corporate chain of them all is sure to arouse suspicions among artisanal coffee purists. 

As one Reddit user put it in talking about San Francisco: “There’s so much great coffee here that drinking Philz and Starbucks should be a crime.” 

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Jillian D’Onfro can be reached at